An Interview with Harold Norse, Part 1, Section 3– Saints and Self-Destruction

I ask Norse about his drive to write poetry.

He feels like a man without category.

He is not from the élite and he is not entirely of the poor.

He is not working class but he is not rich.

Norse was 53 in 1969, the year of the Stonewall Riots.

He was 60 when he published Carnivorous Saint and became
the poetic voice of the gay liberation movement.

Norse discusses recently published letters he received as a
young writer from W.H. Auden.

Auden advised Norse to accept the locked doors of the
literary world as a sign of his true calling in life as a saint.

Screenshot of an of W.H. Auden's letter to Harold Norse from the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series in which Auden tells Harold Norse to accept locked doors ihn the literary world as a sign of his true callling as a saint
A section of W.H. Auden’s letter to Harold Norse from the Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series

When Norse speaks of a politically correct left, he means an academic
élite that restrains the use of a certain kind of language even when it’s
essential to the work.

Section 3 of the interview closes with a question of identify:

“It seems to me that you’re making more than a writer when you take
an illiterate and give him the ability to express himself with a self
conscious understanding of his real social and political position. That
is an extremely powerful thing to do and it can be devastating.”

Interview with Harold Norse, Part 1 Section 3- Saints and Self Destruction


Scan of a typewritten note from Hal the Difficult to Rob the Impossible concerning a vast tureen of nearly finished chicken soup in the refrigerator
An interoffice memo left on the fridge one day.

An Interview with Harold Norse, Part 1 section 2:  The Pain of Becoming Literate

An Interview With Harold Norse, Part One, Section 1: The Art of Teaching
Header image is a flyer for a production of Bobby.  The figure is a shaman.





If I Drop Dead Today

Today was a painful day.

Tuesday is therapy day and therapy provokes anxiety.

I walk to all of my appointments and I don’t let anything
get in the way.

The panic attacks began as soon as I hit the morning
light and they didn’t stop.

At one point I could only take five or six slow steps at
a time.

I tried to stay in the shade.

I was in so much pain that I considered tossing myself
into traffic.

I avoided the underground because I was afraid
I’d switch and throw myself onto the tracks.

The thing is the panic attacks haven’t stopped.

I’m home and as soon as I move they start.

It’s horrible.

But there is the question: what if this isn’t panic.

Yes I’ve had my heart checked and yes my blood tests were
negative for heart disease but I wouldn’t be the first person
to drop dead for no clear reason.

So what if I die tonight? Do I have any last words?

Yes, I do.

I want to thank everyone who loved me; who saw talents
in me that my abuser taught me to ignore and hide.

I want to especially thank the poet, Harold Norse, who took
me on as a student and with whom I lived for five years.

He believed that I could discipline my mind and become a writer.

I want to thank my friend, Maria, who brought me out of Charleston
to Connecticut where I found my first taste of freedom in the small
town of New London.

I’m pleased that Maria remains on this planet and still calls me friend.

I want to thank my friend, Don, who was my first partner and whom
I now call Brother; I have always loved you.

Nothing will change that.

I want to thank my current Partner, James.

Whatever you do and wherever you go; know that our souls are one
and I am a prayer away.

My regret is that I did not live long enough to fully understand and edit
the writing I produced when I lived with Harold.

I am not the writer Harold thought I’d become.

I am the writer that I am.

That’s good enough for me.

Rob Goldstein (c) 2016 All Rights Reserved